Knowledge as a Path to Honor the Life and Work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

A giant of history, a fierce leader, a powerful orator, a champion of non-violence, a father of four – Martin Luther King Jr. filled many roles in his life. His momentous and decades-long effort to achieve equality for Black Americans continues with those who fight for civil rights and equality today. 

Dr. King’s efforts began with desegregating the American South which was achieved just 60 years ago. In addition to desegregation and the just reformatting of American society, he also lobbied passionately for monumental legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since that time, we have seen bounds of progress for Black Americans and other minority groups that have grown from his work.  

Discover more about the incredible life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with resources from Kanopy, Bookflix, and books from the Library’s catalog this MLK day.  

His Life’s Work 

To list Dr. King’s achievements would be to write a novel; few have ever achieved so much in such a short span of time. These resources focus on his life and achievements at large. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Historical Perspective  

He was the conscience of the struggle for civil rights–and one of its many martyrs. This documentary offers a one-of-a-kind examination of Dr. King’s extraordinary life. Using rare and largely unseen film footage and photographs, this film (endorsed by the King Foundation) explores how Dr. King’s ideas, beliefs, and methods evolved in the face of the rapidly changing climate of the Civil Rights Movement. (Kanopy) 

Martin’s Big Words  

Using quotes from some of his beloved speeches, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to life in stunning collage art and vibrant watercolor paintings in this profound biography about beliefs and dreams and following one’s heart. Find this resource on Kanopy Kids.  

Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King Jr. Day 

Bookflix is a family-friendly digital literacy resource that pairs an animated story with a best-selling nonfiction eBook on a similar subject. The pairings are designed to strengthen early literacy skills while exposing young learners to real world concepts. 

Watch this extraordinary union of poetry and artwork that captures the movement for civil rights in the United States, and honors one of its inspirations, Coretta Scott. Then read all about the history and importance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 

King: A Filmed Record  

(Parts I and II) Constructed from a wealth of archival footage, this documentary follows King from 1955 to 1968, in his rise from regional activist to world-renowned leader of the Civil Rights movement. Rare footage of King’s speeches, protests, and arrests are interspersed with scenes of other high-profile supporters and opponents of the cause. (Kanopy) 

His Largest Achievements 

These resources focus on his larger and more famous achievements like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963.  

March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World  

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sister presents a personal, stirring account of the remarkable day Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech and of the man who went on to inspire a nation. (Kanopy Kids).  

And Still I Rise: Black American Since MLK by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Kevin Burke 

A companion book to the hit PBS series (“And Still I Rise”), this book examines black history from the passage of the Civil Rights Act to the election of Barack Obama and describes the contradictions in the modern African-American community. 

“Answering the Call,” The American Struggle for the Right to Vote 

Following the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, black (and other marginalized citizens) saw their right to vote (and in turn determine their own representation) cemented with legal protections and the removal of barriers to register. As a result, black voter registration increased massively; in Mississippi alone, the black voter turnout increased from 6% in 1964 to 59% in 1969.  

Since then, the U.S. saw the first black senator elected by popular vote (Edward Howes who served from 1967-1979), our first black female senator (Carol Moseley Braun who served from 1993-1999), and many others who paved the way for our first black President (Barack Obama who served from 2008-2016) and our first black (and female) Vice President, Kamala Harris. Besides elected officials, the VRA has protected the vitally important right to vote for millions across the country bringing us all closer to a more perfect union.  

This film explores the battle in ratifying the Voting Rights Act, the results of its passage, and the ongoing fight to preserve this piece of legislation. (Kanopy).  

His Eternal Dream 

The positive changes resulting from Dr. King’s efforts have been accompanied by new barriers to black individuals in the United States.  

Knowledge of these institutional issues has increased with the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice movements. Dr. King’s methods of non-violence, legacy and Dream continue to inspire those who fight for equality and justice today. 

The selections below highlight ongoing racial inequity in the United States.  

I Am Not Your Negro

This Oscar-nominated documentary narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, explores the continued peril America faces from institutionalized racism. It is based on an unfinished book by James Baldwin that featured a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends–Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. 

This film is an up-close examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and a flood of rich archival material.  (Kanopy).  

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michele Alexander

This book explores inequality within the United States justice system. The argument central to the book details the discrimination faced by those who spend time in jail or prison. Those convicted of a felony are often subject to old forms of discrimination including employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and many other public benefits. Today, 1 in 3 black men spend time in the United States justice system.  

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

This best-selling book was one of our most popular reads in 2021. Wilkerson explores an immersive, deeply-researched narrative about real people and how America throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day.